“Hiking – I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.” John Muir
I’ve spent a lot of my adult life walking long distances, without a trail to follow, through wild and untouched places, mostly as part of my job. This can be a thousand miles or substantially more some years and it was usually the most enjoyable part of my work.
Walking gives you a lot of time to think or meditate and is really a lost art to modern folks. I have worked with college students who don’t know how far or fast a human can walk in a day or even in an hour.
Hiker with walking cane, hat and backpack – Photographer: Eduard Schlochauer – via Getty Images)
I find that I walk a little slower than most of my colleagues and friends. I am a natural saunterer and like to look around which is maybe why, as an archaeologist, I find a lot of artifacts and cultural features when I walk. I want to take in the landscape, the plants, animals, the geology, and the smells of a place. I like to walk in silence. It is rarely a race for me and I don’t like to focus on the destination as much as the walk. Many people I know walk with a pack by putting their head down and looking at the ground while trying to walk as fast as their bodies will take them along. This is no fun to me. Walking is about the most enjoyable thing I can do. That’s why I’m so fond of writers like John Muir and Henry David Thoreau. They loved to walk and see its value on so many levels.
So, I’d like to suggest leaving the insanity behind for a while, pack a small rucksack, grab your best guy or gal friend, and take a walk in the wild. Your mind will thank you for the break.
Who knows what great memories you’ll make along the way?
When I’m asked if I want to go hiking or backpacking I usually say ‘no but I’ll walk with you while you hike.’
I’m strange that way, I know.